American Civil Liberties Union archives, 1950-1995.

American Civil Liberties Union [Browse]
899.37 linear ft. (2004 archival boxes, 20 half-size archival boxes, 21 archival shoeboxes, 20 16x20 photo boxes, 11 8x10 photo boxes, 9 film canisters, 1 24x36 photo box)


Getty AAT genre
Series: I. Organizational Matters, 1930-1995; II. ACLU Foundation Project Files, 1964-1980; III. Subject Files, 1964-1979; IV. Legal Files, 1933-1990; V. Printed Materials, 1917-1995; VI. Audiovisual Materials, c. 1920-1995. Series I is arranged according to the Union's organizational hierarchy. Series II and Series IV are arranged alphabetically by project and case name, respectively. Series III is divided into four broad subject areas and further divided alphabetically within each by topic. Series V and Series VI are arranged by form and alphabetically or chronologically therein.
Biographical/​Historical note
The ACLU grew out of the American Union Against Militarism (AUAM), formed in 1914 to prevent United States involvement in World War I. The National Civil Liberties Bureau grew out of the AUAM with Roger Baldwin as director (1917). The ACLU was chartered (1920) after calls for a permanent organization to deal with issues such as the Red Scare and amnesty for wartime dissidents. With the onset of the Cold War, McCarthyism, and the actions of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s, the ACLU focused on issues surrounding the Cold War, censorship, church and state separation, and civil rights. The ACLU board committees focused on issues such as academic freedom and due process. Beginning in the 1960s the ACLU also focused attention on access to government information and mass communication. From the civil rights movement through the Vietnam War and Watergate, the ACLU fought internally over the scope and nature of its work. In this battle, the broad interpreters of the Union's mission won out, as the organization took on cases concerning issues such as abortion rights, women's rights, gay rights, including gays in the military, police power, political refugees, privacy rights, and affirmative action.
Summary note
  • Documents the activities of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in protecting individual rights between 1950 and 1995. The collection contains correspondence, clippings, court documents, memoranda, printed matter, minutes, reports, briefs, legal files, exhibit materials, and audio-visual materials. Also included are materials from ACLU affiliate organizations, the Lawyers Constitutional Defense Committee and national office legal department records (1945-1960).
  • Within the Organizational Matters series, Board of Directors documents detail issues such as constitutional revisions, policy statements, and amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs. The tenure of Board of Directors president Norman Dorsen (1976-1990) and the ouster of Helen Gurley Flynn from the board (1940) are well documented. Board Committees material, divided into Standing Committees and Special Committees, documents organizational decisions relating to policies, procedures, and operations of each individual committee as well as individual committee members. Academic Freedom Committee material relates to educational freedom and include tenure-related issues and censorship of books. Communications Media Committee material contains correspondence, memoranda, minutes, publications, testimony, bibliographies, newspaper and magazine clippings, and drafts of documents that relate to television, radio, and print media. National Committee material contains mailings, correspondence and membership information documenting the committee's mission to recruit prominent citizens to become members and discuss the ACLU's position in relation to certain debatable public issues.
  • Departments material documents the work of Executive Directors Roger Baldwin (during his retirement, 1966-1978), Patrick Murphy Malin (1950-1961), John de J. Pemberton (1963-1970), and Aryeh Neier (1970-1978). The work of Associate Director Alan Reitman (1948-1986), Assistant Directors Dorothy Dunbar Bromley (1959-1962) and Jeffrey Fuller (1949-1963), and General Counsels Norman Dorsen (1966-1975) and Chuck Sims (1977-1984) is also documented. Reitman material includes extensive files on corporal punishment in schools, the Fairness Doctrine, the National Coalition Against Censorship, and subject files on mental illness, which document the ACLU's policy on involuntary commitment of the mentally ill in the 1970s. Dorsen material documents major cases he worked on, including U.S. v. NEW YORk TIMES, the Pentagon Papers case. Department material provides partial documentation of issues of importance to ACLU lawyers. Membership Department material primarily consists of correspondence and statistics concerning ACLU membership. Public Information and Education Office material contains the records of Trudi Schutz, director of that office (1975-1987) and Press Director (1974-1975). Roger N. Baldwin Foundation material documents fundraising to expand the ACLU's litigation work, the majority of which were used by the Lawyers Constitutional Defense Committee (LCDC) and Operation Southern Justice. Regional Offices material is comprised of correspondence between the Atlanta, Mountain States (Denver), and Washington, D.C. offices and the National Office.
  • Policies material contains statements of policy and resolutions in response to questions and concerns brought up by ACLU members and staff. Meetings and Celebrations material documents internal meetings and celebrations of the ACLU in addition to outside meetings ACLU employees attended. Affiliates material contains mailings from the national office to affiliates, board minutes of affiliates, general correspondence, and affiliate publications. States Correspondents documents civil liberties concerns within various states and U.S. Possessions. Marshall Civil Liberties Trust Fund contains correspondence, financial records, and legal documents pertaining to the fund established by Robert Marshall and the ACLU projects the fund supported. Attacks and Commendations documents attacks leveled against the ACLU, especially accusations of a relationship between the ACLU and Communism, as well as commendations of the ACLU. Miscellaneous material contains various materials concerning structural and functional matters of the ACLU including resolutions on the deaths of prominent civil libertarians and requests for information regarding the ACLU and civil liberty issues.
  • Project Files include The Project on Amnesty (1972-1975), which documents amnesty and clemency issues for draft evaders, military deserters, and veterans holding other-than-honorable discharges; the Lawyers Constitutional Defense Committee (1964-1976, bulk 1964-1968), which assisted the civil rights movement by soliciting lawyers to provide volunteer legal representation for worthy or significant cases; the Privacy Project (1971-1978, bulk 1974-1978), which contains records of project director Trudy Hayden and documents privacy concerns, particularly those resulting from advances in surveillance and data-gathering technologies, issues and legislation.
  • Subject Files are divided into four broad categories, three of which are subdivided further. Freedom of Belief, Expression, and Association material concerns academic freedom, access to government information, assembly and public protest, censorship, church and state, deprogramming, the environment and civil liberties, freedom of movement, labor and business (including strikes and picketing), right to (legal) license, loyalty and security, mass communications, and military rights. Church and state material here relates to landmark decisions of Supreme Court cases, including McCollum v. Board of Education (1948), Zorach v. Clauson (1952), Engel v. Vitale (1962), and Abington v. Schempp and Murray v. Curlett (1963), as well as files relating to the trial of John T. Scopes in Tennessee, marking the 30th anniversary of the Scopes trial and the ACLU's attempt to challenge the Tennessee "anti-evolution" law. Military rights material focuses on issues surrounding conscientious objectors and also the Vietnam War. Due Process of Law material pertains to children's rights, court proceedings, government due process and legislation, Japanese-American internment, mental health issues, military justice, police practices, prisoners' rights, rights to privacy, and wiretapping and surveillance. Equality Before the Law documents the rights of women, African Americans, lesbians and gays, Native Americans, Jews, Mexican-Americans, aliens and the disabled and also documents poverty and civil liberties and voting and rights. International Civil Liberties material concerns United States occupied areas and possessions. Miscellaneous material contains "Reference Books" compiled by ACLU staff, information on films and television programs about civil liberties, such as a program on Sacco and Vanzetti; and manuscripts relating to civil liberties topics.
  • Legal files contain subject files and legal case files that document the ACLU's involvement in such prominent cases as Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Miranda v. Arizona (1966), In re Gault (1966), Tinker v. Des Moines (1969), Doe v. Bolton (1973), and U.S. v. Nixon (1974). Printed materials include ACLU annual reports, organizational materials, pamphlets, policy guides, press releases, "Rights ofÖ" books that concern specific groups, serials, and textbooks. Also included are subject files that emphasize academic freedom, military rights, and censorship issues. This series also includes outside organizations' printed materials, correspondence between ACLU and other organizations, and exhibit materials. Audio-visual materials contain VHS tapes of some sessions from the 1989 Biennial Conference, but primarily consist of TV talk shows, press conferences, network news, and documentaries. Audio cassettes consist primarily of recordings of sessions from the 1985, 1987, and 1989 Biennial Conferences. Reel-to-reel audio tapes contain debates involving Fulton Lewis III (early 1960s), recordings from the 1970 Biennial Conference, ACLU board meetings (1973-1976), and public service announcements. The 16mm films include TV shows and films that the ACLU had significant interest in. Photographs are primarily portraits and group photos of ACLU officials.
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